The privately owned Adams Pond dam was the focus of discussion Monday night, as the Town Council tried to get a handle on what to do about the pond itself – now not much more than a shadow of its former self. Kathy Wagner, who operates the Londonderry Commerce and Visitors Center website, appeared at the council meeting with State Senator Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry to say that Adams Pond had been reduced to a “mudhole” due to the draining of the pond.
“Back in the mid ‘90s, Open Space went out and purchased easements, and some of the land was Mack’s Apples (Moose Hill Orchards) land and one of the easements was a beautiful pond that we call Adams Pond,” Wagner said. “It’s actually Black Brook, which was dammed. Because of the structure of the dam, the pond has been reduced to pretty much no longer a pond but a mud hole.”
Wagner’s organization scheduled the second annual Visit Adams Pond Day from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 12, and was alerted to the pond situation when she contacted Moose Hill Orchards farm manager Mike Cross with her request. She said he told her that the state had requested through Dam Bureau agent Brian Desfosses that water levels be reduced due to concerns about overtopping of the dam in a 50-year storm of 6.1 inches of rain in 24 hours rainfall.
“Many, many, many people use that pond,” Wagner claimed. “The day I went out, there was a man out there that has been living here for 24 years and used the pond to go fishing said, ‘what happened to the pond?’”
Wagner, noting that the conservation easement had been purchased with town funds, asked whether town money could be used to pay for studies on the privately owned dam. The studies are sought by the state before the pond level could be increased.
“Why I’m here is we do have some skin in the game because we actually used taxpayer dollars as Open Space to purchase the easements on this,” she said. “The state has been down to examine the dam and there needs to be studies done.”
Wagner said that she had met with Cross and that Mack’s had not asked for money, but has asked the Conservation Commission if there were a way to get the studies done. “Nobody knows what we’re facing with the dam. It could be a $50,000 repair or it could be a $200,000 repair, but we need to get these studies done,” she said. “In full disclosure, I live by it and I played on it for 25 years. It is absolutely gorgeous.”
She asked if the town could work with Moose Hill Orchards to get the studies done.
Carson said she had obtained reports from the Dam Bureau that outline what the problems are and what needs to fixed.
“I can check with the Department of Environmental Services to see if there are any state dollars through grants that are available for the restoration of the pond,” Carson said, noting Wagner had contacted her a week and a half ago and had brought her out to the pond.
“Quite frankly, I was shocked to see what had happened,” Carson said. Carson said she is looking to the Town Council for direction on what the council would like her to do at the state level. Council Chairman John Farrell said he had seen the report and had asked Public Works Director Janusz Czyzowski to look into the situation and give the council his point of view.
Councilor Tom Freda said the property owner is responsible for the stewardship of the property.
Wagner countered that stewardship has been maintained by the community and that Moose Hill Orchards, the landowner, has been “wonderful by opening up the cross country ski trails and with fishing and there’s a bench out there and the Boy Scouts go out there and camp.”
Councilor Jim Butler said from his talks with Cross, he learned that the pond was drained to do some maintenance and that calculations regarding rainfall amounts had been changed. As a result, the dam had to be widened to prevent overtopping due to the new calculations.
“I did not see anything in the report that said that the dam itself was in default,” Butler said. “I would like to see if we could contact the state and ask the state to put back the boards, raise the dam up. Let’s talk to Mack’s Apples and when we know that we have some type of storm coming, they then remove some of those boards to relieve some of the water.”
Freda said he was not interested in acquiring land and that this was a perfect example of millions of dollars being spent acquiring land, with no money spent to maintain it. “If the police chief went out and bought new cruisers and didn’t maintain them, he would be fired. It is the same with the Conservation Commission, and they’ll say we can’t do that but you know what? They can,” Freda said.
Conservation Commission Chairman Deb Lievens said the commission had no involvement in the purchase of the property other than as “shareholders, we had the funds, the grants, so that we didn’t have anything to do with the easement of this particular parcel.”
Lievens said agriculture easements involve the purchase of development rights so that the property stays agricultural and is not subdivided for house lots and other development. “Therefore they (the owners) are responsible for the property,” she said. “It’s their property. We only have the development rights to the property. They are the ones who fix the barns, they do the roofs. If a road in the back forty needs fixing, they fix it.”
Farrell took a consensus of the council to have the town engineer look at the situation and see if a plan could be laid out and returned to the council with a recommendation.
Councilor Tom Dolan asked if the level of the pond could be returned to its original state while the studies were conducted.
Carson said if that was what the council wanted, she could make a call to see if that would be a possibility, as well as looking into areas of possible state money. Acting Town Manager William Hart also plans to look into the matter. “What to do, who is going to do it and who is going to pay, and if we can,” Hart said.